Ex-SEC chair joins Apollo board amid Jeffrey Epstein reckoning

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Apollo Global is getting a big name to fix its big problem.

The private equity giant on Thursday named former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton as its lead independent director as the firm continues to reckon with the fallout from founder Leon Black’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein.

An independent investigation at the $455 billion firm revealed in January that billionaire Black paid the sex criminal — who committed suicide in prison in August 2019 — $158 million between 2013 and 2017 for professional advice on tax audits, wealth management and estate planning.

Since Epstein had no formal legal or financial training, that explanation left legal experts scratching their heads. Black, 69, announced that he will step down as CEO in July but will nevertheless remain the chairman of Apollo’s board.

Clayton, 54, left the SEC in December and will return to the white-shoe law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, where he was a partner representing clients like Goldman Sachs before Donald Trump tapped him to be Wall Street’s top sheriff.

Lead independent directors often act as something of a check on the chairman of a corporate board, giving shareholders a voice and keeping an eye on how the chairman executes his duties.

Reports swirled in January that Black’s co-founders Josh Harris and Marc Rowan had pushed for Black to leave the firm entirely in the wake of the Epstein revelations, but that a tense agreement was reached in which Rowan would take over as chief but letting Black stay on as chairman.

Apollo Global continues to reckon with the fallout from founder Leon Black’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein.
Apollo Global continues to reckon with the fallout from founder Leon Black’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein.
Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Black said Thursday that he welcomes Clayton’s addition to Apollo.

“I am pleased to welcome Jay Clayton as Lead Independent Director of Apollo,” Black said in a statement. “We undertook a thoughtful and deliberate process and are proud to have someone as distinguished as Jay serve in this newly created role that reflects the strong corporate governance enhancements we continue to implement.”

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